Virgin America, the American incarnation of Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic (award-winning, and actually profitable, airline), rolled out service here in the US last week. The new airline, based out of San Francisco, promises a flying experience that is...well...different. There's really no other way to describe it, to be quite honest!
I spent some time at their website, exploring the VA Difference, and I have to say, for all intents and purposes, it's quite different! It's a cross between the interior of a Mercedes-Benz S-class, a super-stretch limosine (read "mood lighting"-I'm not kidding you), an Apple store, trendy salon, chic upscale juice bar (yeah, they've got a mini-bar), a masseuse, and the flight-deck of some futuristic spaceship that you'd see on Star Wars. As Boing Boing, tech blogger puts it in a recent blog post (she was invited to fly on the inaguraul flight), the "cabin interior feels like a big happy iPod." And, to see the pictures, I've got to agree.
The interesting thing is their pricing. One would expect the Virgin Atlantic experience to be to flying as the iPhone is to mobile phones (that is, overpriced, yet still enormously in demand). I did a quick search. I submitted a test itinerary to both VA and AA for a trip from San Francisco to New York City (round trip), departing September 19 (my birthday folks; an excellent time to make good use of my Amazon Wishlist), and returning exactly one week later. The prices were exactly the same! $258, round-trip! Amazing!
My prediction is that, assuming Virgin America can stay on schedule (without the embarrassing technical hiccups experienced recently by so many other major airlines), and assuming they can keep their pricing reasonably competitive, they'll emerge as the leading domestic airline here in the US. Keep an eye on them!